PUBLIC SERVICES DIVISION • DEPARTMENT OF STATE
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in western
Asia is one of nine sovereign Arab States with
which the United States has direct relations. 1
Geographically it occupies a central position in
that vast area from the Mediterranean to the
Arabian Sea known as the Middle East — the se-
curity of which is important to the interests of
the free world and the United States.
Jordan, completely independent since 1948, is
about the size of Indiana. Most of its more than
one million inhabitants are Arab-speaking Mos-
lems, but there is a long-established Christian
minority among them.
The Government is a constitutional monarchy
with an appointed Senate and elected House of
Deputies. Young King Hussein, the present head
of state, is the grandson of modern Jordan's first
monarch, King Abdullah, who was assassinated 4
years ago while emerging from prayer in a
The greater part of the country stretches east
and south from the Jordan River Valley in a wide
V, taking in the entire former British Mandate
of Transjordan. West of the Jordan River, the
Kingdom encompasses a significant portion of the
Holy Land. Under control of Jordan, but desig-
1 Tlie others are Egyiit. Iraq, I^ebanon, Libya, Muscat
and Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen. There is no
exchange of missions with Muscat, but treaty relations
have existed since 1833.
nated by resolution of the United Nations for
internationalization, is a portion of Jerusalem and
its environs, including all of the Old City and
Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.
This land with its rich tradition has for cen-
turies provided an important link in the trade
between the East and the West. Other ties with
Europe go back to the spread of Christianity.
Formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire (1516-
1918), the country made substantial progress
toward independence and modernization with
Jordan is bounded on the north by Syria, on
the east and south by Iraq and Saudi Arabia — all
Arab countries and members of the Arab League,
together with Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya,
and Yemen. On the west Jordan is bounded by
Israel, still unrecognized by any of the Arab
The exact location of the Jordan-Israel border
has not been finally determined. The present
demarcation line, approximately 350 miles long,
was established by the Armistice Agreement of
1949. There has been no permanent settlement
between Arab and Israeli forces since the partition
of Palestine, and this demarcation line remains
sealed against virtually all traffic. For over 5
years there has been an armistice, but there has
been no trade, no transit of goods, no diplomatic
exchange with Israel. Continual border disputes
and other difficulties complicate Jordan's present
position — just as they threaten the security and
progress of the area as a whole.
U. S. POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Poverty is widespread among the peoples of the
Middle East. The United States would like to
see them achieve the greatest degree of political
and economic self -development. In addition,
free-world security is the sum of the political and
economic health of the free nations — including
the entire key area of the Middle East,
The unresolved internal quarrel between the
Arab countries and Israel is weakening the area
to the detriment of the security of the free world.
This is among the chief reasons why the United
States hopes for a definitive and just peace be-
tween the parties.
In the development of our relations with the
newly independent nations in this part of the
world, we have pursued, and will continue to
pursue, a policy of impartial friendship. We are
deeply cognizant of the great intellectual and
spiritual debt which Western civilization owes to
More specifically our basic objectives are to
promote and encourage:
Peace among the states themselves.
Better understanding between the Arab world
and the Western nations.
Government stability, maintenance of law and
order, and a general rise in living standards.
Growth of democracy, not necessarily in our
own pattern, but in a form which recognizes the
same basic principle of individual freedom.
Regional defense measures against aggression.
Many problems besetting the new Hashemite
Kingdom of Jordan are the result of the Pales-
tinian conflict. Open warfare broke out between
the Arabs and Israelis on May 15, 1948, immedi-
ately following the termination of the British
Mandate over Palestine. The United Nations had
announced a plan for the partition of the country
into separate Arab and Jewish states. Jerusalem
and its environs were slated for territorial inter-
Many Zionist groups wanted still more terri-
tory than the plan proposed. Others of Jewish
faith, both in and out of Palestine, voiced objec-
tions to partition on the grounds that it was not
necessary to achieve independence as a separate
political unit in order to preserve identities that
are essentially spiritual. However, most Zionist
leaders acquiesced in the plan because it gave
them the long-sought opportunity of founding a
nation in the area. The Arabs, on the other hand,
were unanimous in their opposition; they re-
garded the establishment of Israel as a threat to
the territorial integrity of land that had been
inhabited predominantly by Arabs for over a
As the deadline for the expiration of the man-
date drew near, the British prepared to withdraw
their forces. Tensions between the two groups
continued to mount. Israel proclaimed its inde-
pendence on May 14, 1948, and within a few hours
units of the Arab Legion together with other Arab
forces engaged Israeli troops at many points along
the U. N.'s proposed border and in Jerusalem.
The United Nations took action to halt the
conflict but months of patient negotiation were
necessary to work out mutually acceptable armi-
stice terms. Jordan became the third Arab State
to sign an armistice with Israel, following Egypt
and Lebanon and preceding Syria. These agree-
ments, which are still in effect, halted the organ-
ized fighting. Among other things the agreements
provided armistice lines drawn for the most part
to separate territory held by the opposing armies,
and they set up the U. N. Mixed Armistice Com-
missions to see that the terms of the armistice
The task of resolving the larger issues that
partition and war left in their wake was assigned
to the U. N. Palestine Conciliation Commission.
Despite 5 years of effort, this group has been un-
able to suggest a formula for a lasting peace
agreeable to both sides. Consequently, there re-
main unsettled such serious questions as the future
of almost 900,000 Arabs — about half of whom
are now in Jordan — who left their homes in
Israel during the fighting, the establishment of
friendly relations and the resumption of trade, the
status of Jerusalem, as well as the location of
permanent boundary lines.
Although there are other Palestinian refugees
in Lebanon, in Syria, and along the Egyptian-
controlled Gaza Strip on the Mediterranean coast,
nowhere is the problem quite so acute as it is in
.Jordan. The plight of many of these unfortunate
people was described by Secretary of State Dulles
when he visited the area in 1953 :
". . . They mostly exist in makeshift camps, with
few facilities either for health, work, or recreation.
Within these camps the inmates rot away, spiritu-
ally and physically. Even the Grim Reaper offers
no solution, for as the older die, infants are born
to inherit their parents' bitter fate."
In addition, like other nations in the Middle
East, Jordan itself has inherited a legacy of severe
economic and social problems. It has few means
by which to raise the living standards of its
people. Many are without schooling and medical
care. In some countries where oil is adding to
national wealth, great strides for economic bet-
terment are possible. In Jordan, however, there
is a dearth of natural resources, including a
scarcity of life-giving water itself.
Moreover, the nation has been faced with the
hard task of uniting two distinct geographical
sections under a single rule. When the territories
now constituting Jordan passed under the protec-
tion of Great Britain at the end of the First World
War, Transjordan — the country across the river —
was put under the leadership of Abdullah, a
Hashemite prince from the Arabian Hejaz. After
the portions west of the Jordan River and Dead
Sea were united with Transjordan, the entire area
became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and
in 1949 was recognized as such by the United
The territory of Jordan totals about 36,715
square miles. Nearly five-sixths of the land lies
east of the Jordan River. A fertile strip 30 miles
wide at the Syrian border runs south, tapering
off into arid wastes before reaching the Saudi
Arabian frontier. Barren hills, mountains, and
vast unpopulated desert areas make up the re-
mainder of the area east of the Jordan. West
of the river are some 2,165 square miles formerly
included in the Palestinian Mandate.
The strong nationalistic feeling which has
played so large a part in shaping the modern
Middle East has a distinctive Arab flavor in the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The people think
of themselves as belonging to an Arab nation
transcending boundaries. They call their small,
British-trained army the Arab Legion. They
continue to identify many of their aims and as-
pirations with those of other Arab peoples. Thus
the complexion of the Kingdom results from a
series of political events, rather than from an
attempt to carve a national boundary around a
particular ethnic group.
The East Bank Jordanians are largely de-
scended from Arabian Bedouin tribes. The Pales-
tinians, on the West Bank, are of mixed origin,
stemming from heterogeneous groups that settled
in and about the Jordan Valley countless genera-
No systematic attempt has been made to take
an accurate census of the region since the time of
Augustus Caesar. General estimates place the
population of Jordan at around 1,372,000. Again
in round numbers, 400,000 are former Trans-
jordanians, most of whom still live on the East
Bank; another 400,000 are West Bank residents
who became Jordanians with the annexation of
that part of the country; and 100,000 are refugees
from Israel who have established themselves in
Jordan and are supporting themselves. The re-
maining 472,000 are other Arab Palestinians who
lost their homes in Israel as a result of the conflict
in Palestine and are still classed by the United
Nations as refugees in need of international
Excluding the refugees, the greater portion of
the people— about 450,000— live in towns; 385,000
are settled villagers, and 65,000 are nomadic.
Most of the entire population is dependent on
agriculture for a living.
Capita] of the Hashemite Kingdom and largest
city on the East Bank is Amman, grown in the
last 10 years from a modest village to a city of
approximately 100,000 people. The old portion
of Amman, the ancient Greek city of Philadel-
phia and before that the stronghold of the biblical
Ammonites, includes a "suq" or open-stalled
Oriental bazaar. In the new part Amman has
a department store, the King's palaces, a number
of Government buildings, and many streets of
Irbid, As Salt, Al Karak, and At Tafilah, towns
of some 20,000 to 50,000 people, are also situated
on the East Bank, as are Ma'an, southern terminus
of the country's main rail line, and Petra, "the
rose red city'' of solid rock, once an important
caravan trading station. Al'Aqabah, situated on
an arm of the Red Sea, is the country's only port.
West Bank cities include:
. . . Hebron (about 25,000), which contains
shrines of both Moslems and Jews, where David
lived and where Abraham is said to have estab-
lished his family tomb.
. . . Bethlehem, where Christian pilgrims come
by thousands to worship at the Church of the
. . . Jerusalem, Holy City of Star, Cross, and
Crescent, known to the Arabs as Al Quds.
. . . Nabulus, capital of Samaria, now a center
of Arab nationalism.
. . . Tul Karm, near the Israel border.
. . . Jericho, moon god city captured by Joshua
from the Canaanites.
Jerusalem, with a population of perhaps 100,000
in its Arab sector, and Bethlehem are in a zone
slated by United Nations resolution for interna-
The overwhelming majority of the people in
Jordan are Moslems. Islam is the state religion
and Arabic the national language.
Less than a tenth are Christians (including
29,000 of the refugees). These Christians have
lived for generations in close association with the
holy places or in other centers where the Christian
hold was strong, first under Byzantium and later
through the Crusades. The Christians are mostly
Arabs of the Eastern Orthodox faiths, although
there are Roman Catholics and Anglicans among
them. The way of life of the Christian Bedouins,
of whom there are a few, is scarcely distinguish-
able from that of Moslem nomads.
Most of the Jews living on the West Bank prior
to partition have gone to Israel. There is a small
group of Samaritans, numbering no more than
300 today, whose ritual is based on early Hebraic
tradition but who split with Judaism before the
birth of Christ.
Another important minority is composed of
Circassian Moslems whose ancestors emigrated
from the Russian Caucasus nearly a century ago.
Throughout the hilly part of the country the
climate is generally Mediterranean, except that
the summers are not quite so hot and the winters
are cooler. Snow is not unusual in the higher
altitudes. The West Bank has a better rainfall
than the East. In the lower Jordan Valley, as
in the outlying desert regions, rainfall is slight
and summer heat intense.
The Jordan River which gives the country its
name, together with the Yarniuk River tributary,
is the principal stream. Although small as rivers
go, the potential of the Jordan- Yarmuk as the
country's only source for much-needed irrigation
and hydroelectric power gives it an importance
far beyond its size.
Agriculture and Trade
About 80 percent of the arable land of Jordan
is under cultivation. The East Bank's fertile
strip, having suffered little from erosion and over-
cropping, is in good condition. The West Bank,
in contrast, is a severely denuded region. Yet
the people living there, driven by desperation to
make their stony soil productive, are careful
farmers, and some excellent samples of terraced
agriculture may be observed in that section.
In some cases the truce line cuts Arab villages
off from lands once tilled by hard-working farm-
ers, forcing them into an existence of idleness and
semistarvation. Subsistence farmers on the East
Bank have been driven further into poverty by
the inflated prices resulting first from war
and then from the increase and dislocation of
Jordan's chief crops are wheat, barley, millet,
maize, and sesame; beans, tobacco, and animal
fodder; figs, grapes, and olives. A small oasis
around Jericho is known for its citrus groves.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are the only steady
export, most of them going to Syria, Iraq, and
Lebanon. Raw wool is exported only when the
world price is high.
Today cereal imports are required for Jordan
unless crop yields are especially abundant. Cot-
ton piece goods, sugar, and coffee also figure
among the imports, the total value of which far
exceeds that of the exports.
In the days of the mandate most of Jordan's
exports and imports went through the port of
Haifa, less than 50 miles from the northwest
border. Today the costs of transportation have
risen, since most of the goods must now be moved
farther over land — mainly through Beirut.
The main railroad extends some 280 miles
through central Jordan, linking Ma'an in the
south with the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Originally constructed by the world Moslem com-
munity to connect Mecca and Medina with the
rest of the Islamic world, it was partially de-
stroyed during the campaigns of Lawrence of
Arabia in the First World War, and the part
below Ma'an was never rebuilt.
British administration gave the country some
1,400 miles of hardtop roads, and the Jordanian
road network is well maintained and being ex-
panded with assistance from the United States
and the United Kingdom.
Oil lines passing from Iraq to the coast provide
In the valley of the Jordan where the river flows past barren tableland on its way to the Dead Sea. The adoption of
a unified plan for the development of the Jordan-Yarmuk system would lead to maximum use of the area's limited
Arab refugee women and children lining up to receive food in a camp near Hebron where about 6,000 refugees are now
living. Many of these people are given temporary care through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, but a permanent
solution to their plight is one of the unsolved problems of the area.
the country with a transit fee and offer some em-
ployment at pumping stations.
Prospects for intensive agricultural develop-
ment in the Jordan Valley, using waters of the
Jordan and Yarmuk for irrigation, are bright;
but an agreed division of the waters between
Israel and the Arab States, must precede the full
development of this great natural resource. The
soil and the climate are good; all that is lacking
is water and the economic means to bring it to
Next to farming and herding, the tourist trade
holds promise of becoming one of Jordan's most
productive activities. Already the country at-
tracts thousands of foreign visitors each year.
However, the individual tourist is permitted to
travel in only one direction between Israel and the
shrines of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, with a few
exceptions, during the Christmas and Easter
seasons, and this restriction has kept down the
number of potential foreign tourists.
Jordan has two airfields, at Amman and at
Jerusalem, and local service is available between
cities in the area. However, international air
travel in the region is hampered by national regu-
lations which prevent planes from or to Arab
States from using airspace over Israel and which
forbid planes previously touching ground in
Israel to land in Arab States.
Jordan's chief economic and social problem is
unemployment, which is due, in large measure,
to its lack of resources. Aside from the refugee
population, there are many people out of work.
Before the Palestine conflict, many Jordanians,
particularly Arabs from Jerusalem, used to find
work in Haifa and other Mediterranean ports.
The country has neither coal deposits nor oil
and, as far as has been determined, no workable
metals. The Dead Sea contains potash and bro-
mine; phosphates are worked at Rosaifa, and an-
other deposit has been located near the rail line
at Hasa. Processing and transportation difficul-
ties, however, are at present hindering the export
of these chemicals.
Head of the Government of Jordan is the King.
Principal authority is vested by the constitution
in a National Assembly consisting of a Chamber
of Deputies of 40 members elected by the people
and a Senate, also of 40 members, appointed by
the King. Executive responsibilities are dis-
charged by the Prime Minister, whom the King
appoints to head a Council answering to the
Jordan has no political parties in the usual
sense. In the last election, in October 1954, can-
didates supporting the Government's program
won a majority of the seats in the Chamber.
There is a scattered representation of minority
groups, one of which is the Communist "National
Front," which won two seats in the last election.
There is little danger of a direct Communist
takeover in Jordan. However, when a Com-
munist-controlled minority unites with extreme
nationalist groups, it is able to play upon the
dissatisfaction and unrest existing within the
country and so delay constructive solutions for
Jordan's many problems.
It is interesting to note that Jordan's applica-
tion for membership in the United Nations has
thrice been vetoed by the U. S. S. R.
JORDAN'S TIES ABROAD
Jordan's strongest ties abroad are with Great
Britain and with the Arab League.
Under the mandate the country was in large
part dependent upon British support. And it is
British support today that helps sustain much
of Jordan's economy.
Jordan's army, the small but well-equipped
Arab Legion, is maintained by British subsidy
under the command of a British-born general.
A military alliance with Great Britain provides
for mutual assistance in the event of war or the
threat of war. Great Britain also maintains air
units in the country and has full privileges of
The United States, Great Britain, and France
joined in a declaration of May 25, 1950, affirming
their ' unalterable opposition to force or threat
of force'' by any of the states in the area, or any
attempt to violate frontiers or the armistice lines
laid down by the 1949 armistice agreements be-
tween Israel and the Arab States.
In his lifetime Jordan's first King, Emir Ab-
dullah, worked for closer relationships among the
several Arab States, particularly among those
countries forming what has been termed the
Fertile Crescent. This area, stretching from the
head of the Persian Gulf up through Iraq's
Tigris- Euphrates Valley to the Mediterranean
coast of Syria and Lebanon, takes in Jordan's
fertile strip in its final swing.
While it was usually possible for Abdullah to
work closely with his relatives in Iraq, his plans
were resented in republican Syria and Lebanon.
In addition, the Sauds, who had driven the
Hashemites out of Arabia when the kingdom of
Saudi Arabia was consolidated in 1924, feared a
resurgence of Hashemite power in the area.
Egypt, the largest and most powerful member
of the Arab League, maintains close relations with
Saudi Arabia. Like the latter, it has pursued
foreign policies which have operated to discourage
the growth of competing Arab power to the north.
Such conflicts of national interests within the
Arab League have created problems in the realiza-
tion of united action on matters relating to stabil-
ity and defense of the area as a whole.
Abdullah, however, foresaw that Jordan alone
could not be a viable state. He not only sought to
strengthen economic ties with his Arab neighbors,
but he looked forward to establishing peaceful
relations with Israel. His moves in this direction
aroused great resentment, especially among the
embittered Arab refugees. Abdullah was assas-
sinated in 1951. The country rallied from the
blow and today both the East and West Banks
are united in their support of the Crown.
PLANS FOR DEVELOPMENT
In 195:2 Jordan set up a special governmental
board to plan and supervise programs for its eco-
nomic development. These programs depend
heavily on foreign assistance. The most substan-
tial help continues to come from Great Britain in
the form of interest-free loans, grants, and mili-
tary subsidies. United States aid for the fiscal
years 1951 through 1955 slightly exceeded $26
million, of which $13 million was for development
projects, about $11 million for technical assist-
ance, and over $2 million in the form of wheat
for famine relief. The United Nations refugee
A general view of Amman, the capital of Jordan. In the foreground, a refugee family has set up its tent. Legend
Ms it that on the hill at distant right David's captain, Urriah, the Hittite, met his death fighting against the Ammonites,
program, to which the United States is the larg-
est contributor, involves expenditure for food,
shelter, health, and education of some $15 million
annually. The American Ford Foundation and
other private sources have made limited donations,
principally to aid in the much-needed extension
and improvement of the school system. There
are also several well-established religious charita-
ble organizations, including the National Catholic
Welfare Conference and the Lutherans.
The economic needs of the country call for
projects which create work as well as serve long-
range development plans. Consequently, the De-
velopment Board has undertaken such work as
the extension of roads, modernization of existing
irrigation systems, reforestation, sanitary projects
Small quantities of water are drawn to the surface by means of this crude wooden, icindlass. It is probably
the only watering place for miles around in this arid stretch of Jordan.
in overcrowded settlements, improvement of port
facilities at Al'Aqabah, and establishment of
model farms and agricultural research centers.
Further plans of the board call for loans to rebuild
destitute frontier villages, to expand activities of
various cooperative societies, and to stimulate
local crafts and industries in the Arab sector of
United States technical assistance experts work
closely with the Development Board on these and
other projects — in the fields of health, education,
water conservation, and the tourist trade.
From the first the Jordan Government has
shown a willingness to accept the refugees as
brothers, granting them citizenship and cooper-
ating in plans for their rehabilitation. While
many cling passionately to claims for repatriation,
experienced observers have said that most of the
refugees would actually prefer to stay in Jordan
provided they could have adequate compensation
for abandoned lands and property and aid in get-
ting a fresh start. However, until more arable
land can be made available, it is doubtful if
Jordan can absorb these refugees. Jordan's great
hope lies in irrigation development from the
Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers.
Sharing the Waters of the Jordan
Unified development of the Jordan River sys-
tem may lead to the irrigation of 125,000 acres
of land in the valley alone, providing a direct
livelihood there for over 100,000 more people.
Jordan power also can be used to establish a num-
ber of small industrial plants, thereby absorbing
many more now destitute people in light indus-
tries and related trades.
The river and the streams which feed it run
through Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, as well as
Jordan. In 1953 the United Nations Relief and
"Works Agency, interested in providing work
projects and additional land for refugees, asked
the American Tennessee Valley Authority to
draw up a plan for the full development of the
Jordan's resources. With the active support of
President Eisenhower, who sent Ambassador Eric
Johnston into the area, this proposal became the
basis for negotiations with the four courtries
Unified development of the Jordan is economi-
cally feasible as well as humanely necessary.
Total cost of a TVA-type plan for the entire
watershed is estimated at about $120 million.
The increased yields of the valley in Jordan alone
may easily be worth as much as $40 million a year.
Once a plan is agreed on, many of the refugees
can be put to work on Jordan development
projects. The United Nations, which has already
allocated an initial sum for development surveys,
will provide additional funds for construction as
soon as agreements can be reached. In less than
3 years after work commences the first families
can move to their new land.
Even though the signing of a formal treaty of
peace between Jordan and Israel may be a still-
distant hope, it now appears possible to solve the
problems of Jordan's water needs without such a
treaty. In any event, the United States will con-
tinue its efforts toward an equitable sharing of the
disputed waters and their development for the
benefit of the peoples concerned.
Department of State Publication 5907
Near and Middle Eastern Series 19
Retained September 1955
U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE : I9S5 O - 348489
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, D. S. Government Printing Office, Washington 25, D. C. - Price 10 cents